Since 2016, Capital K, Manitoba’s first family-owned and operated producer of handcrafted spirits, has been turning out prairie-inspired crowd favourites. From the inaugural Tall Grass Vodka, through the addition of gin, flavoured vodkas, rye and more, Capital K has prided itself on only using the best locally sourced ingredients and the finest, traditional production methods. But, when Covid-19 hit Winnipeg and sanitizing products we’re in short supply, they heeded the calls from the community and switched their entire distillery output to antiseptic cleanser.
With the process of producing sanitizer being essentially the same as spirits, it wasn’t an issue for the team of three to quickly make the switch. Using what supplies they had on hand, Capital K was soon providing sanitizer to police, fire departments, emergency rooms, ambulances, schools (while they were still open), and prisons. It was all hands on deck in a way they have never experienced.
Right from the start, they could not keep up with demand. The first hurdle was their size. With the relatively small size of the distillery, it’s been difficult to keep enough supplies on hand to maintain a high enough output.
The second was bottle size. While the 750ml bottles they already had on hand were a great start, the distillery soon realized that they were much too big for front line workers to keep on them while on the job. So they put a call to the community for smaller bottles, and the response was overwhelming. Support came from all over - individuals hitting up dollar stores, local cosmetic and scent makers donating their supplies, and even the former owner of a vape shop showed up to offer all the leftover stock of small glass bottles he had on hand.
Despite the upheaval, Capital K employees have full hearts and feel like they are making a difference in their community.
“The city [Winnipeg] has surprised us!” says Lindsay Gillanders, who handles marketing for Capital K Distillery. “Smaller retailers have stepped up and taken responsibility for serving people in a safe way, even before it was mandated. ”
Although the switch to producing antiseptic cleanser has hurt spirit sales for the distillery, the switch has enabled Capital K to keep all staff employed. As plans for reopening start to roll out province-wide, they plan to keep producing their antiseptic cleanser to help businesses sanitize in preparation for the public. For those of you hankering for a cool Tall Grass Vodka caesar on the deck - don’t fret! Capital K has started to plan the production of its handcrafted spirits over the coming weeks.